What Are Hydrosols? How they are made and why I love them!
What are Hydrosols?
Hydrosols are created through the distillation process of aromatic plants. During the distillation process hydrophilic (water-loving) properties of the plant and hydrophobic (oil-loving aka volatile oils) properties are jostled out of and away from the plant matter through steam and evaporation. The end product is a distilled plant water called a hydrosol that contains both water loving compounds and oil loving compounds, aka the essential oils.
How It’s Done:
Plant material (often quite a lot to glean a small amount of essential oil, but generally less plant material is needed for hydrosol production) is added to the basin or column (depending on if you are hydro- or steam- distilling the plants) of a copper alembic still (traditionally, but sometimes other vessels are used) along with water at the bottom of the basin. The still is placed over a heat source and as the water heats up and begins to evaporate plant constituents get dissolved into the rising steam. In this form the plant oils and waters are ascending together completely mixed and co-mingling in harmony. It is then funneled into a cooling system. This system is a copper coil submerged in running water. As the steam travels through the coil it condenses into liquid and comes out of a small spout as hydrosol. At this point the oils and waters visibly separate and the essential oils of the plant float to the top of the hydrosol. It should be known that the hydrosol will have a very small amount of oil held within it. When it reaches its natural saturation point the oil condenses and separates to the top.
It is through the distillation process the healing properties are extracted. This fact that hydrosols contain both hydrating water components and powerful volatile oils makes for a mild, yet therapeutic product. Carboxylic acid is an example of an anti-inflammatory acid carried in hydrosols.
Hydrosols vs Toners:
Toners have added components to change the pH and make it slightly more acidic for the skin. Hydrosols are distilled through the copper still and have no other additives. That said, hydrosols naturally have a mildly astringent quality to them and are highly effective as skin tonics. Use of hydrosols on the skin adds moisture and helps protect the skin from environmental pollutants.
Hydrosols vs Flower Water:
True hydrosols are created by distilling plant material and collecting the floral, aromatic waters and volatile oils as mentioned above. Be aware, some plant waters are merely essential oils added to distilled water. This is very different. It is great to know where and how your hydrosols were made. More on this below.
How To Use Hydrosols:
Hydrosols can be used anytime in all honesty. They are refreshing and offer a burst of aromatherapy at any needed point. I have hydrosols strategically placed in all aspects of my life. I carry a small bottle in my purse. I have them at work. On my counters (bathroom AND kitchen) at home. I spray as often as I want. They are so hydrating to the skin without needing to apply more moisturizer or oil, nor are they heavy enough to interfere with make-up.
When it comes to my skincare, I always apply hydrosol before I apply my facial oil, or body oil. The mixture of oil and water infuses moisture in the skin. Hydrosols are especially great for dry skin, but can also be quite healing to acne prone skin because they have natural anti-inflammatory properties.
More Reasons Why I Love Hydrosols:
The act of distillation takes a plant that has been growing in the earth and alchemizes it into medicine. The transmutation of the constituents and healing properties into steam, where water and oil swirl hand in hand ;), then condense down into liquid where they coexist indefinitely is an epic process.
Now let’s zoom out our vision of the process a little more. When we choose hydrosols that were grown in rich and loved soil by those who are stewards of the earth we are choosing mineral rich and vital plants. We are choosing energetically dense plants. Then when we use these plant waters on our skin, or on our bodies we are choosing a high vibration of natural healing.
Let’s zoom out some more. With a traditional medicine lens on we can see plant distillation offers a product that has all of our natural elements infused. EARTH to grow the plant. WOOD is the plant material itself. FIRE to create the steam. METAL (often copper, but some other metals are used) is the still. The vessel of transformation. Finally we have WATER in various forms. Therapeutic in all of its stages. Water to grow the plants. Water to process the plants. And finally, infused water as the end result. This is an elementally balanced experience.
I have loved collecting hydrosols from different places and producers to get a sense of the land it was grown-on and to bask in the essence of the soil, the growers and the differing medicinal qualities. Notice any subtle changes from region to region? Does the scent change from farm to farm?
Some of my favorite hydrosols are from Turkey Tail Farm in Butte County, California. Samantha and Cheetah are hard-working, dedicated and conscious land stewards creating a beautiful product from the northern california soil I love. Scoot on over to their site to read about them and their lovely work. I have a selection of Turkey Tail Farm hydrosols available on my website for purchase. I have also fallen in love with, and had the opportunity to see the process in action, with Sweet Mountain Top Farm in Carpinteria, California. Growers of small scale and potent flowers and medicinal plants. In the past couple years I found Aloha Grown Beauty where I experienced their soursop leaf and ginger hydrosol. Sooo good, and I will gladly bask in the glory of hawaiian grown plants any day. I am also struck with the potency, intention and stewardship of Gara Skincare who we carry at the office, Points of Health, in Santa Barbara.
Thank you plants!